Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brewing an Oxbow Grizacca clone (No. 5 in the Maine Beer Clone series)

It occurred to me a while ago that I hadn't brewed any Maine beer clones lately; my last one was the delicious APA, MO, from Maine Beer Company, back in early January. So, naturally that got the idea in my head to brew another... and I'm telling you, there's a lot of good options. It never ceases to amaze me how many awesome breweries that Maine has. Some obvious beers that would be great to "clone" came to me: Maine Beer Co. Lunch, lots of beers from Allagash, and one of the most highly-sought-after beers in the state, The Substance, a fantastic American IPA from one of Portland's newest breweries, Bissell Brothers.

BUT. I was in Portland for one of my beer trips in June, and I had a lot of fantastic beers there, as always. Maybe my favorite was one from the farmhouse brewery, Oxbow, in Newcastle. The beers coming out of this little brewery are pretty awesome; I attempted a clone of one of their Freestyle series beers, No. 5 (a "Black Wheat Saison"), almost two years ago (my recipe here, along with more info on Oxbow). That was actually my first beer in the Maine Beer Clone series, and I had a lot of help from Oxbow co-founder and head brewer Tim Adams.

Oops, I'm digressing. Anyway, this awesome beer I had from Oxbow was Grizacca. I didn't know anything about the beer at the time, other than it was a ~5% ABV Saison-type beer. It was really delicious, and smelled fantastic. Light and easy-drinking, it was a very pale-colored beer, pretty cloudy. Strong on both Saison yeast character, and hops. Very "ripe" and fruity, I swore to myself that it must be heavily-hopped with Nelson Sauvin. Obviously, I was paying absolutely no attention to the actual NAME of the beer. Now that I know more, I can elaborate. Grizacca is a Grisette, heavily-hopped with Azacca.

First, some info on what a Grisette is/was. Thought to originate in the Hainaut province of Belgium in the late 1800s, Grisette was brewed for miners with the intention of being a dry, refreshing, and sessionable beer, similar to Saisons being brewed for farmers. Indeed, Grisette is very similar to the Saison style... at least, how Saison originally was: a low-alcohol, light-bodied golden ale. With a grist usually made up of a healthy portion of wheat, the beer was only lightly-hopped. According to "Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition", by Phil Markowski, only a single brewery in Belgium markets the name grisette: Brasserie Friart, better known now as Brasserie St. Feuillien

So, Oxbow took a mostly-diminished beer style (although, to be honest, it seems to me that a lot of today's low-alcohol Saisons could be considered Grisettes as well), and made it their own... by hopping the hell out if it with one of the newest, hottest hop varieties out there right now - Azacca. An American variety, I believe the 2013 crop was the first time Azacca was released commercially under that name (previously, it was known as ADHA 483; not quite as catchy). Like a lot of hops, it has many descriptors, including tropical fruit, citrus, pineapple, grapefruit, orchard fruit, and pine, among others. Already, there have been a lot of experiments with single-hopped beers with Azacca (especially among homebrewers; check out those by Derek at Bear-Flavored and Chris at Lewy Brewing).

Due to the generous information I was given for my last Oxbow clone, I decided to try emailing Tim Adams again to see if he'd be willing to help out a bit with a clone for Grizacca. Luckily for me, he was once again quite forthcoming. Here's his email response...

Use some good pils. 1/2 the grist should be a blend of malted wheat and and spelt.  Again, use the good stuff! Shoot for 4.5-5% abv. Blast your whirlpool with Azacca but save some for dry hop!  You might wanna dry hop twice, and you might wanna thow in one more hop varietal ;) Saison yeast of your choice, just make sure it does a good job!  We shoot for about 1.002 final gravity. You want that shit dry!

He was even nice enough to apologize later for being "cryptic" about the second hop variety; totally unnecessary, but still great of him! I felt this was plenty of information to go on, and could at the very least set me on the right track. 

I started by, of course, putting the recipe's grist together. Spelt is an ancient type of wheat that is high in protein (~17%) that is starting to see more use in brewing. I knew right away that I wouldn't be able to find any spelt from my LHBS. However, a friend here in Fredericton is the owner/brewer of a fairly-new Belgian-style brewery (Grimross Brewing), and he normally uses spelt in one of his flagship beers. Unfortunately, it had been hard to come by lately, so he was fresh out. Tim had actually told me that if finding spelt was an issue, to substitute in flaked wheat, which is what I ended up having to do. Otherwise, the rest of the grist was easy... I added a bit of Acid malt for pH reasons, and some rice hulls to help prevent a stuck sparge. I aimed for an OG of about 1.042 to get to ~4.7% ABV... I thought getting down to 1.002 for a final gravity may be pushing it a bit on my system at this time of year (summer would have been another story), so I figured 1.005-1.006 would be more realistic.

Coming up with a hopping schedule was, for the most part, pretty easy. I added a bit of Azacca at the beginning of the boil to provide a few IBUs (feel free to use any bittering hop; I used Azacca simply because I didn't feel the need to open a vacuum-sealed bag of another variety for just a few grams), and then added a whole whack of it near the end of the boil, at 5 minutes, flameout for a hop stand/steep, and even more when the wort temp dropped below 180 F (an approach I've been using a lot lately for hoppy beers). The question was... what should I add for the other hop variety, which I assumed would be in the dry-hop additions?

I really wish I had one of those amazing senses of smell, or a fantastic palate like some do... but I don't. I'm not going to pretend I can pick out a certain hop variety in a multi-hopped beer, especially when it's in the background compared to a highly-flavorful hop like Azacca. First, I considered Nelson Sauvin based on my initial thoughts on Grizacca, but somehow I can't see Oxbow using that in a beer with Azacca. I was going to go with Centennial, but at the last minute I changed my mind... and I don't know why. But I did, and threw in some Simcoe for both dry-hop additions. Even if it's not what Oxbow uses, I figure it'll still be tasty!

For my yeast, I went with the always-dependable (for me, anyway) Wyeast 3711 French Saison. I've used this strain several times in the past (such as in my very tasty Prairie Artisan Ales 'Merican clone); I really like what it brings to a beer, and how well it attenuates without a lot of fuss (I'm looking at you, 3724). It's also a great yeast to use this time of year; it's not exactly hot out anymore, and Wyeast lists the fermentation range from 65-77 F, which is perfectly doable any time of year, really, indoors.

And that's about it. As usual, here's hoping for a tasty beer, if not a clone of the real thing! It's all about the adventure, right? Well, the end product has to play SOME part in all this.

Recipe targets: (4 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.041, FG ~1.005, IBU ~40, SRM 3, ABV ~4.6%

1.3 kg (49.1%) Pilsner
650 g (24.5%) Wheat malt
650 g (24.5%) Flaked Wheat
50 g (1.9%) Acid malt
125 g Rice hulls

Azacca - 5 g (14% AA) @ 60 min
Azacca - 30 g @ 5 min

Azacca - 30 g @ 0 min (with a 15-minute steep)

Azacca - 60 g after started chilling, when wort temp below 180 F

Azacca - 40 g dry-hop for 4 days (in primary)
Simcoe - 20 g dry-hop for 4 days (in primary)

Azacca - 40 g dry-hop for 4 more days (keg-hop)
Simcoe - 20 g dry-hop for 4 more days (keg-hop)

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 3711 French Saison (production date Aug 19th)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 2 g Gypsum and 2 g calcium chloride added to the mash

- Brewed on September 28th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 8 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 148 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

- SG a bit low at 1.028 (target 1.029). 90-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 10-minute steep before turning on the chiller; wort temp was almost immediately below 180 F, where I added the second amount of flameout hops. Final volume ~4 gallons. Chilled down to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. OG slightly high at 1.042. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast.

- Good activity over the first several days, temp getting up to 74 F. Visible fermentation ended quickly.

- 10/10/14 - FG 1.005. Added 1st dry hops directly into primary.

- 14/10/14 - Racked beer to CO2-purged keg; added 2nd dry hops in a weighted-down mesh bag; left at room temp.

- 18/10/14 - Removed dry-hops, set keg in keezer to bring temp down before starting to carb.

- Tasting notes here... the beer came out great, I'm really happy with it. However...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tasting : Fiery Planet (Modern Times Blazing World clone)

I've brewed 17 beers so far this year, and I'm happy to say that I've been lucky enough to have been pretty pleased with how most of them have come out. They haven't been perfect, of course, but a lot of them have been quite tasty, and there hasn't been any major screw-ups yet (knock wood). But this beer - my clone attempt of Modern Times Blazing World, a hoppy Amber - is the first beer where my first smell and pour from the tap made me think: YES.

This was one of those brews where I knew before packaging that it was going to be good; heck, I could tell before dry-hopping it. When I took a gravity sample, I had a small taste as I always do... and it was pretty darn fantastic. I figured adding the hefty dry-hop of Mosaic, Nelson and Simcoe certainly wasn't going to hurt it. And as suspected, of course it only made it better!

As you'd expect from these hop varieties, the beer has a huge tropical nose to it, with a nice amount of dank hop character as well. And the flavor is pretty fantastic... once the beer warms up a bit, you get this great combination of caramel malt sweetness, tropical and citrus fruit, dankness... it's pretty awesome. Moderate bitterness in the finish, the beer doesn't have a harshness to it at all, which I was worried about considering the high calculated IBUs from the recipe.

I mentioned in the brew post that I've actually had the commercial version of this beer. I really liked it, but not as much as this homebrew clone. I'm certainly not saying I'm a better brewer than anyone at Modern Times; I just think this recipe works really well on a homebrew level. When you compare it to the one linked to from the Modern Times website, this one has noticeably more hops in the flameout and dry-hop addition, so that makes sense. If you're at home thinking of brewing this beer, I encourage you to use the one developed by the Mad Fermentationist.

That's two for two with Modern Times recipes for me (the Fortunate Islands clone, a hoppy Wheat, was another favorite homebrew of mine). I'm not sure if I'll attempt their other two flagships, but it's possible... their Black House, an Oatmeal Coffee Stout, is pretty fantastic. Either way, I'm really happy with this Amber recipe, and encourage anyone who can get their hands on these hops to give it a try. Now.

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-sized, creamy, off-white head that lasts for a while before fading to 1/2-finger. Body is a dark-red color, almost brown, and very hazy - I’m pretty sure that’s my fault, as I'm starting to think I forgot to add the Irish Moss tablet during the boil.

Aroma: Beautiful aroma: huge on tropical fruit, with a complimenting malt character. Not roasty, but caramel sweetness without being overpowering. Some nice dankness in the hops as well.

Taste: The malt sweetness (caramel character) is there at first, but the strong tropical fruit from the hops comes through immediately after, with a bit of pine and dank hop character as well. Finishes nicely balanced between sweet and dry, with a moderate hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied mouthfeel, moderate carbonation. Very creamy.

Overall: Fantastic beer. Up there with my Maine Beer Co. Zoe clone for hoppy Ambers that I’ve brewed. Delicious.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Brewing a Galaxy One-Hop Imperial IPA

Judging from the title of this post, it may appear that I'm overdoing it with concentrating on one-hop beers lately (two of my more recent brews were an El Dorado Session IPA, and a Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine clone, a DIPA brewed with all Citra hops). I swear it's a coincidence; this isn't the sole direction my homebrewing "career" is taking. I think two things helped me make the decision on what to brew next: 1) the Double Sunshine clone had kicked, so I was ready for another DIPA, and 2) I've been sitting on a 1/2 lb of Galaxy hops for months, and have never brewed with this hop, so I was anxious to try them out before they got too old.

First, a few words on the Galaxy hop variety. A high alpha-acid, Australian variety, it's another one of those hard-to-get hops that have become really popular over the past few years. Used for its very strong hop flavor and aroma (citrus and passionfruit are two of the main descriptors you'll see), it appears to make an almost-overwhelmingly fruity beer. I like fruity hops; hell, who doesn't? But there's a lot of fruity hop varieties out there, so I'm curious to see how Galaxy compares to a lot of others that I've brewed with in the past.

A beer where Galaxy hops are front and center certainly isn't something new, especially in the world of commercial beer. If you do a quick search online, you'll find many APAs, IPAs, DIPAs and more that are brewed solely with Galaxy. Always reassuring, especially considering that Galaxy hasn't been around that long. I wouldn't say that any of these beers in particular pushed me towards brewing my own, but I HAVE always had Hill Farmstead's Double Galaxy on my wish list (mind you, I have a lot of beers from HF on that list). What I'm brewing is in no way a clone attempt of Double Galaxy - I didn't contact Shaun Hill for any info and I've never tried the beer. My Galaxy DIPA is being brewed for research and enjoyment purposes only!

When putting together the recipe, I didn't really do any particular research. I know what I like in a DIPA - I don't want much in the way of specialty malts (I'm looking at you, Crystal), and I want the beer to finish dry. I'm looking for some firm bitterness in the finish, but I mostly want the beer to be about hop flavor and aroma. This isn't anything new, as I think a lot of hoppy-beer drinkers look for their DIPAs to be this way.

So, on to the grist. As you can see, I kept it very simple, with the high majority being 2-row, a touch of Carapils and Crystal 40 L, and some table sugar to help dry the beer out a bit more. And as I've been doing with most of my pale beers lately, a very small amount of Acid malt to bring the mash pH down. The sugar is added directly into primary (boiled with water and cooled) once fermentation slows; it's certainly fine to add it in the boil, I just prefer to do it the other way to take a bit of strain off the yeast. If you follow my approach, make sure you adjust your OG target accordingly when taking a reading after the boil.

For the hop schedule, I went with something very similar to that used in my Modern Times Fortunate Islands clone; that is, no actual hops added until flameout, but then you add a LOT after that point. A bit of hop extract for bittering at the beginning of the boil, and then lots of Galaxy at flameout for a hop stand/steep, some more when the chiller is turned on and the wort temp drops below 180 F, and then lots more Galaxy again in two separate dry-hop additions. I've had success with this approach before, so as long as these hops are fairly fresh (they should be; they're the 2013 harvest, but have been sealed, nitrogen-flushed, and stored properly the whole time) I'm expecting good things with this beer... minus the always-possible infection, stuck fermentation, etc.

Fermented as usual with US-05, I'm hoping to be drinking this beer by mid-October at the absolute latest. I'm continuing my approach to brewing smaller batches for hoppy beers; it's working out well, to prevent them from aging too much, without making me feel like I have to plow through high-ABV beers on a daily basis. Now that I'll likely be back to brewing every couple of weeks, it also helps keep the turnaround on the taps at a more-reasonable pace.

Recipe targets: (4 gallons, 72% efficiency) OG 1.077, FG ~1.012, IBU ~80, SRM 6, ABV ~9%

Grains & Sugars:
4.5 kg (86%) Canadian 2-row
188 g (4.8%) Carapils
100 g (1.9%) Crystal 40 L
80 g (1.5%) Acid malt
300 g (5.8%) Table sugar (added in primary when fermentation slows)

Hop extract - 6.25 mL (equivalent to 35 g of 10% AA hop) @ 60 min

Galaxy - 50 g (14.1% AA) @ 0 min (with a 25-minute steep)

Galaxy - 50 g after started chilling, when wort temp below 180 F

Galaxy - 63 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Galaxy - 63 g dry-hop for 5 more days (keg-hop)

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale, rehydrated

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g of Gypsum and 3 g CaCl added to the mash

- Brewed on September 10th, 2014, by myself. 50-minute mash with 13 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 148 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 7.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~2 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~5.75 gallons.

- SG a bit low at 1.052 (target 1.053). 60-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 25-minute steep before turning on the chiller; wort temp was almost immediately below 180 F, where I added the second amount of flameout hops. Final volume ~4.25 gallons, a bit high. Chilled down to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. OG high at 1.073 (when including future sugar addition). Aerated with 90 seconds of pure O2, pitched rehydrated yeast. Placed BB in laundry sink with some cold water to try to keep temp down. 

- Fast fermentation over the next couple of days, temp getting as high as 74 F, higher than I'd like. Luckily I pitched low, so hopefully the alcohols don't get too hot. By the third day, fermentation was already showing signs of slowing down, so I added the sugar in two additions over 24 hours, 150 g each that had been boiled and cooled in about 1/2 cup of water.

- 19/9/14 - FG 1.012. Added 1st dry hop addition directly into primary.

- 24/9/14 - Beer racked to CO2-purged keg, second dry hops added in a weighted-down mesh bag. 

- 30/9/14 - Dry hops removed, keg put in keezer to drop temp down.    

- 10/11/14 - I'm admittedly a little disappointed, but it still came out pretty good... I was just expecting more fruit in the aroma and flavor.